Intoxication Manslaughter in Texas
An intoxication manslaughter charge is one of the most difficult charges to face and is challenging for judges, juries, and attorneys alike. Anyone who has driven home and regretted it the next morning also realizes that either blind luck or the grace of God prevented them from facing a crime of this magnitude. Unlike most criminal offenses, there is no mental state requirement for the offense. In other words, it is not necessary for the prosecution to prove that you intended to hurt someone.
Further complicating matters are “causation” issues that often arise in intoxication manslaughter cases. If another vehicle was involved, did the other driver contribute to the accident, was the other driver also intoxicated, was the victim restrained by a seatbelt? These are all issues that a trier of fact may have to deal with.
Intoxication must be proven at the time of the act, accident, or wreck that caused the death. Additionally, intoxication must be proven to the cause of the death, either by accident or mistake.
(A) not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; or
(B) having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.
What is the punishment for Intoxication Manslaughter in Texas?
Intoxication Manslaughter is a second-degree felony, and the punishment range is between 2 and 20 years in prison. Deferred adjudication is not an option for an intoxication-related offense. A sentence of less than 10 years may be probated.
Even if a sentence is probated, the probationer must spend at least 30 days, day-for-day, in custody. Additionally, the probationer will not be able to consume alcohol for the probationary period (most often 10 years), license suspensions, and be subject to numerous other conditions including having interlock installed on any vehicle that is operated on an occupational license, taking classes, doing community service and reporting to probation officers once a month. You read correctly, most individuals who are placed on probation for intoxication manslaughter are on probation for 10 years. This means a probationer can be perfect for 9.5 years, then have a violation and be sentenced for 20 years in prison. In essence, a person who is placed on probation is giving up 30 years of their life to the court in some senses.
Additionally, it is common in some counties, such as Tarrant County, to slap on an additional paragraph alleging a deadly weapon (a car) was used in the offense. The effect of a Deadly Weapon finding is that the judge cannot give probation in a case where the deadly weapon enhancement is found to be true. Only a jury can give probation in that situation, and only for sentences that are 10 years or less. Additionally, a Deadly Weapon finding doubles the time a person must serve in prison before being eligible for parole.
Intoxication in Texas
Penal Code Section 49.08
(a) A person commits an offense if the person:
(1) operates a motor vehicle in a public place, operates an aircraft, a watercraft, or an amusement ride, or assembles a mobile amusement ride; and
(2) is intoxicated and by reason of that intoxication causes the death of another by accident or mistake.
(b) Except as provided by Section 49.09, an offense under this section is a felony of the second degree.
Elements of an Intoxication Manslaughter Case in Texas
- On or about a particular
- in particular county
- the defendant did
- a motor vehicle
- in a public place
- while intoxicated
- and by reason of intoxication caused the death of another by accident or mistake.
Varghese Summersett PLLC is a criminal defense firm with the experience of over 500 jury trials. The firm’s attorneys have been named Top Attorneys by Fort Worth Magazine every year since 2011. The firm’s senior attorneys are former state and federal prosecutors and include Board Certified Criminal Law Specialists.